John Carroll O'Connor best known as Carroll O'Connor, was an American actor, producer and director whose television career spanned four decades. Known at first for playing the role of Major General Colt in the 1970 cult movie, Kelly's Heroes, he later found fame as the bigoted workingman Archie Bunker, the main character in the 1970s CBS television sitcoms All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place. O'Connor later starred in the NBC television crime drama In the Heat of the Night
from 1988 to 1995, where he played the role of Police Chief William Gillespie from 1988 to 1994, and Sheriff Gillespie in 1995. At the end of his career in the late 1990s, he played the father of Jamie Stemple Buchman on Mad About You.
O'Connor, an Irish Catholic American, was the eldest of three sons born in Manhattan, New York to Elise Patricia and Edward Joseph O'Connor, who was a New York City lawyer. Both of his brothers were doctors; Hugh, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1961, and Robert, a psychiatrist in New York City. O'Connor spent much of his youth in Elmhurst and Forest Hills, Queens, in the same borough in which his character Archie Bunker would later live. In 1941 O'Connor enrolled at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, but dropped out when the United States entered World War II. During World War II he was rejected by the United States Navy and instead enrolled in the United States Merchant Marine Academy for a short time. However, he left that institution and became a merchant seaman.
O'Connor attended the University of Montana-Missoula, where he met Nancy Fields, who would later become his wife. At the U of M, O'Connor joined Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. At that time, however, O'Connor did not take any drama courses as an undergraduate. O'Connor later left U of M to help his younger brother Hugh get into medical school in Ireland, where he completed his studies at the University College Dublin. It was there that he began acting in Theatre.